Nurses work directly with patients in various positions as licensed practical nurses, registered nurses, and advanced practice nurses. Some nurses choose to specialize in a particular field.
Registered nurses comprise the largest, single occupation in the healthcare field, totaling 2.7 million workers in the U.S. as of 2014. By 2020, Illinois projects a nurse shortage of more than 21,000 employees. Due to the shortage, the state is working diligently to recruit graduates from nursing schools in Illinois and elsewhere. This shortage also means that there are many positions available in rural and urban areas. Nurses work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, schools, and private homes. Graduates from Illinois nursing schools are also able to work out of state.
How to Become a Nurse in Illinois
The Illinois Center of Nursing provides a list of state-approved degrees, including online RN programs in Illinois and online BSN programs in Illinois. Licensure costs and program requirements differ based on which program you’re interested in. A master’s degree in nursing demands more schooling and time than an associate degree, for instance. Once a degree candidate completes an on-campus or online nursing degree or a nursing diploma, they must take the nursing licensure examination. The state of Illinois requires nurses to have a license before they can work in the field.
Choose the Path That's Right for You
When evaluating prospective nursing programs, consider their length and prerequisites. Nursing schools in Illinois set certain enrollment requirements. At minimum, a nursing student must earn a high school diploma or GED to enter RN programs in Illinois. LPN programs do not require a college degree, but graduates must pass entrance and licensure exams. Nursing schools in Illinois may require SAT test scores. Prerequisites vary between programs. Degree candidates interested in teaching pursue a master’s degree in nursing, while learners seeking a leadership position must earn a doctor of nursing practice.
Earn Your Nursing Degree
Nursing students can earn their degree on campus or online. Nursing schools in Illinois may require applicants to complete prerequisites before entering the major program. Core undergraduate studies include science-based courses, such as chemistry, anatomy, and physiology. Nursing schools in Illinois may also require clinicians, fellowships, or internships before graduation. These requirements may impact the time it takes to graduate. Different nursing degrees take longer to complete. BSN programs in Illinois usually last four years. A master’s degree in nursing typically requires two to three years to complete, while a doctor of nursing practice could take up to six years to earn.
Pass the Licensing Exam and Earn Your License
To become an LPN or RN in Illinois, applicants must pass a licensure exam, which costs $200. This does not include additional exams or fingerprint fees. Learners must complete an application with an educational program endorsement from one of the nursing schools in Illinois before taking the online exam. Some nursing schools in Illinois prepare learners for the licensing exam. State law prohibits nurses at any level from practicing without a license. A license-pending registered nurse may practice under supervision for three months.
Nursing Licensure in Illinois
LPNs and RNs take different versions of the National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX-RN exam. The test may include up to 265 questions. To prepare for the exam, the National Council for State Boards of Nursing recommends that applicants review test plans.
Before taking the exam, applicants must also complete an Authorization to Test and register with Pearson VUE. Instructions for the exam’s dual application process are available on the nurse page of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation’s website. The IDFPR, a state agency, issues nursing licenses and renewals. In Illinois, applicants must also register with Continental Testing Services. State boards for nursing determine exam eligibility. Applicants must receive testing approval before scheduling an exam. While the exam does not require a bachelor’s degree in nursing or an advanced degree, all applicants must show verification of education from any of the state-approved nursing schools in Illinois. Applicants must also submit fingerprints to the IDFPR. If a nurse holds licensure in another state, the applicant must apply to practice in Illinois through the IDFPR website.
Nursing Licensing Costs in Illinois
Exam Fee $98
App Fee $50
Career Outlook for Nurses in Illinois
Illinois offers three primary careers for nursing: LPN, RN, and APN. Under the direction of an RN, an LPN assists medical professionals in the nursing practice. An RN, who typically holds a bachelor’s degree in nursing, provides direct patient care and promotes health. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment in Illinois to increase 3.4% for RNs and 3.4% for LPNs. An APN holds licensure as an RN and APN. Using advanced diagnostic skills, an APN assists medical professionals in the practice of medicine. Unlike RNs and LPNs, APNs can prescribe and administer medication and order diagnostic tests. As they advance their careers, nurses may choose to specialize in a specific area, such as pediatrics, emergency nursing, or coronary care. Teaching and leadership positions are also available.
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Biggest Hospitals in Illinois
Hospitals provide many employment opportunities for recent graduates of nursing schools in Illinois. Several hospitals in Illinois, including the two institutions below, serve as teaching hospitals, offering internships, fellowships, and work study programs. Teaching hospitals provide degree candidates with the opportunity to network and learn from professionals who have years of experience.
- Northwestern Memorial Hospital: Ranked as the top hospital in Illinois by U.S. News & World Report, Northwestern Memorial Hospital employs more than 30,000 medical practitioners, including 4,000 doctors. In the past year, the hospital saw a total of 45,998 admitted patients. Northwestern Memorial Hospital also serves as a teaching hospital for medical students.
- Rush University Medical Center: A teaching hospital accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities, Rush University Medical Center treated 31,810 patients in the past year. U.S. News & World Reports ranks the medical center as the second best hospital in Illinois. With more than 2,500 students, the medical center offers an ideal educational setting.
Additional Nursing Resources in Illinois
Illinois Center for Nursing
Created due to an anticipated nurse shortage in the state, the Illinois Center for Nursing serves as a resource for current students and graduates of nursing schools in Illinois. The state-sponsored website includes useful resources for nurses, including information about scholarships and grants, volunteering opportunities, and advertisements for faculty positions. The center’s website also provides links to professional nurse organizations.
Illinois Association of School Nurses
The Illinois Association of Schools Nurses remains the only organization in Illinois that is designed for school nurses. The association advocates for nurses in the state and provides industry-specific information, including employment opportunities, news and events, conference registration, membership forms, and awards and scholarships available for nurses employed by Illinois school districts.
Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation
This state department serves a number of key functions, including providing license applications and renewals for new and current nurses. The website also offers important dates for license renewals, updates on state nursing laws and regulations, board contact information, and a database that allows employers and nurses to look up a specific license.
American Psychiatric Nurses Association (APNA), Illinois Chapter
This state chapter of the APNA provides guidance and a professional network for psychiatric nurses residing in the state. The chapter’s website features information about upcoming events, association membership, and job listings in the state.
Illinois Nurses Association (INA)
Serving as the nurses’ union in the state, this labor organization works to improve wage and working conditions and provides representation for members. The union’s website provides links to available nursing jobs in the state, education about union membership and collective bargaining, information about upcoming events, and the union’s social media channels.
Accredited Online Nursing Programs in Illinois
Accreditation is important. It ensures students that the school or program has met certain educational standards. The table below shows all of the available online programs from nursing schools in the state, including accelerated nursing programs in Illinois. The list also displays accreditation, which applies to any type of online nursing degree, including RN to BSN and MSN.